One in three Tennesseans is overweight or obese, yet most people report that they make an effort to eat healthy. So what’s going on?
The short answer is we’re eating more calories than we’re burning, of course, but experts also agree that our environments may be partially to blame. Oftentimes, unhealthy foods are cheaper, more easily available and taste better to more people than healthy foods. So what can we do about it?
Here are 5 ways to avoid accidentally putting on extra pounds.
1. Cook at home more often
Americans officially spend more money at restaurants than they do at grocery stores. That’s a problem because people typically eat 20-40% more calories in restaurants than they would at home. Try eating at home one or two more times per week to help keep calories under control.
2. Cut portion sizes yourself
Restaurant meals have tripled in size in the last 20 years, which makes it easy to overindulge. When ordering at a restaurant, ask for a menu with nutrition information, order from a healthy menu if available or ask for a to-go box and put half of your meal in it as soon as it arrives. That way you can still eat out without overeating.
3. Know what you’re drinking
Every day half of adults in America drink sugar-sweetened beverages, which are associated with health issues including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Try switching at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day for unsweet tea, sugar-free soda, or, better still, water.
4. Take the time to find fresh, affordable food
Experts recommend people eat 2 cups each of fruit and vegetables per day, yet less than 20% of Americans hit that target. For many Tennesseans, economic and social factors can make finding and affording fresh produce difficult. Limited access to transportation and the prevalence of food deserts can mean meal options are primarily fast-food or convenience stores. Grocery shopping on a budget can also mean selecting less healthy foods — sugar, oils, refined grains — because they seem less expensive.
To combat this:
- Buy frozen fruits or vegetables. They cost less, don’t expire as quickly and contain the same nutrition as fresh produce.
- Use the PickTN website to find a farmers market near you, and use these tips to shop smarter at the market.
- Pay attention to the types of tomatoes and potatoes you eat. Those two foods make up half of the produce eaten in the U.S., but they’re often accompanied by excess sugar, fat, and salt (i.e. french fries or sugary tomato sauce). If you aren’t buying fresh tomatoes, opt for a low-sodium canned version and try preparing potatoes in ways other than frying, like roasting.
5. Eat a better breakfast
Tennesseans already consume more sugar than almost any other state in the U.S., and breakfast may secretly be one of the biggest culprits of excess weight gain. Pancakes, muffins, cereal and even granola bars can be packed with sugar, so be sure to read the labels before you buy.